Matthew 16:13-28 Part 12

When we left the passage last Lord’s Day, Simon Peter had reacted very negatively to Jesus’ assertion that it was necessary that He go into Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders and the priests and the Scribes; and to be killed and on the third day to be raised.  (verse twenty-one and twenty-two)

And in his description of that reaction, Matthew uses a word which indicates that Peter was a participant in a Satanically-inspired opposition to the Providential “necessity” which had just been stated by Jesus.

Peter had “chided” Jesus, and he had called upon God the Father to be merciful to Him.  As far as Peter was concerned, this aspiration of Jesus to be killed at the hands of the Sanhedrin was a cosmic calamity; and it could not take place!  Peter’s eschatology did not include the suffering and crucifixion of the Messiah, but consisted of the immanent, glorious and earthly reign of David’s great Son!

But the “necessity” to which Jesus spoke referred to the depravity of mankind and the requirement of a bloody, substitutionary sacrifice.  The “Lamb of God” slain, and resurrected, and ascended, is at the very essence of the Kingdom; for, without it, the damning power of sin cannot be overcome – and the new temple, or the new Jerusalem, or the New Israel, or the New Heavens and the New Earth cannot be established on the Rock foundation.  There is no Kingdom without an ascended Christ.

But the “puffed up” (but well-intentioned – sincere) disciple never got to finish what he was saying.  As soon as he got it out of his mouth that this calamity was not going to happen (his intent), Jesus turned to face him squarely.  No dallying with him; no turning it over in His mind; no questioning of Peter; no probing and reasoning with him – no guidance of his understanding!  Just – “Get behind Me, Satan….”

Now Rome would have us all to believe that Jesus wasn’t speaking to Peter at all!  Just like their doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary, which is there to protect their idea of a female semi-deity, the prominence of the apostle Peter must also be defended – for the grip of fear by which they hold the masses of their constituency depends on a succession of authority from this man!

So it is a critical issue to them that they “lessen the blow” which is delivered here to Peter.  One way to do that is to change the proper name of the fallen angel, which is clearly used here, to the “definition” of his name.  So they replace Satanos – Satan – with “adversary”.  So, whatever implication there is in people’s minds concerning Peter’s connection with Satan, is at least to some degree, lessened – since the name “Satan” is removed from the text.  That’s a very common practice among men, isn’t it?  The Pharisees were experts at changing the words of the text, or the meaning of the text, in order to protect their authority and status.  And Roman Catholicism has been doing the same thing for centuries in order to protect the sacerdotal hierarchy which “binds” millions of people to the fear of men.

Another thing they do here to protect the “person” of Peter is to claim that Jesus isn’t speaking to Peter at all.  And, again, they have to change the text in order to support that.  They assert that Jesus, here in verse twenty-three, turns His back to Peter and speaks to someone or something else in an entirely different direction!  The implication, of course, is that Jesus was speaking to Satan – completely separate from Peter!  But the text itself lends no support at all to that.  In fact it says that He spoke to Peter.

So there’s no way to circumvent the connection between Satan and Peter.  Even if we can’t define that connection, it’s still incumbent upon us to avoid doing violence to the text!

But Satan is the archfiend!  He is, according to God, a liar and deceiver from the beginning.  You remember that He approached Jesus at the end of an extended period of fasting and attempted to convince Jesus to abdicate!  All along the way he has instigated diabolical blueprints for changing the course of God’s Providential history.  There’s always another attempt!  And his methods and purposes change with the situation.

His personal confrontation with Jesus in the wilderness was met with a command from Christ to “go”.  And the Word of God the Son was powerful to send him away.  In the case of our text, the natural propensities of the apostle, and his theological misconceptions concerning the Kingdom, were used by Satan in a subtle attempt to snatch away the Kingdom.  And Jesus, with a very similar command to that one in the desert, said to him, “Go behind Me, Satan….”

And there is no doubt about the connection between Peter and Satan in this case.  As we saw before, the apostle was participating, very aggressively, in the demon-inspired opposition to Providential “necessity”.  Peter, as the chief apostle to the Jews and the representative of the twelve, had been promised the keys to the Kingdom and the power of binding and loosing by the preaching of the Gospel.  And, as we saw last Lord’s Day, we find him pronouncing mercy upon Jesus – calling upon the Father to terminate this “purpose” of Jesus to suffer and be killed at the hands of Israel’s leadership!  And this certainly is a demonic attempt to steer the direction of the Kingdom toward a physical rule in Jerusalem.

Later on, when it was apparent that Jesus would do just what He said, it is also apparent that Satan schemed then to have Jesus killed – in order to hold Him in the realm of the dead.  So whatever situation presented itself to the arch-demon, he took advantage of the reality of it and designed a means to interrupt it!

But in this case, Satan purposely used the audacity of the apostle Peter, and his false expectations of the Kingdom – both of which had already been demonstrated by Peter and apparent to Satan, in order to trap Jesus.

We might make mention of the fact, too, that Peter was well-intentioned and sincere in his concern for Jesus and his desire to see Jesus rule from the seat of King David!

But before I speak to that, we need to realize that, at this point, the bloody sacrifice for sin had not yet been made; the gathering of the lost sheep of the house of Israel was not yet complete; Jerusalem – the capital city of the nation of Israel – had not yet received its double portion of judgment; the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles had not yet been broken down; the binding of Satan from his free-wheeling control of the wilderness nations of the world had not yet occurred; the Son of Man had not yet received glory and a Kingdom from His Father; and the Spirit proceeding from God the Father and God the Son had not yet been poured out upon the world –  tabernacling with the Church in the Glory-cloud.  And all of these things, and more, are “defining” reasons why it was a “necessity” for Jesus to go into Jerusalem and suffer and be killed and be raised.  And, at the same time, they are also reasons why the apostles did not yet understand that necessity!  And, these reasons also explain why Satan, himself, was so personally active in this whole process, because the restraints that were to come were not yet placed on him – the Kingdom had not yet been established and the keys to that Kingdom had not yet been given to the apostles!

But I want to get back to Peter – and his good intentions, and his sincerity, and his concern for Jesus, and how all these things relate to his false theological – eschatological – expectations!

We all understand that Peter’s concept of the Kingdom was that the Divine Son of David would one day be enthroned in the seat of David; and that the glory of Israel would be returned to it; and that the whole world would look to this king and pay him homage.  That was the general expectation of the people of Israel although the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied something entirely different!

But Peter’s misapprehension of the truth (along with all the rest of the apostles) and his aggressive pursuit of that false concept, along with his sincere desire for the well-being of the Messiah of that kingdom, made him the willing agent of Satan to snatch the Kingdom away!  His sincerity and his good intentions, and his concern for Jesus fit very well into the agency of Satan!

And the point here is that the misappropriation of Scripture left Peter in agreement with Satan rather than with Christ – regardless of his sincerity and good intentions!

Sincerity without truth leaves one sincerely in agreement with Satan!  Good intentions without truth leaves one a participant in demonic and fraudulent activity; love and concern for people – and even for Jesus – without the truth, leaves one laboring in the bowels of Satanic conspiracy.  So we have to watch our good intentions, our love, our best acts, that they not agree with Satan rather than with Christ!  Sincerity and love and concern go hand in hand with God’s truth – to the benefit of the Kingdom; but sincerity and love and concern without the truth do violence and damage to the Kingdom.

 So there is a connection here between Simon Peter, the recognized leader and representative of Christ’s disciples, and the arch-fiend and conspirator against Christ and his Kingdom.  Peter has called upon the mercy of God the Father to intervene in the calamitous plans of Jesus to go into Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the elders and priests and Scribes, and to be killed and to be raised.  Peter is the willing agent of Satan who has laid this “trap” or this “snare” before Jesus.

Here is our old word again that we’ve encountered a number of times before – “skandalizo”.  Not a stumbling-block – but a snare.  A trap – in which one can become caught and destroyed.  It is a trap of reason and emotion – an enticement – that, if entertained, meant destruction, loss of the Kingdom, disobedience to the Father, unfulfilled prophecy, loss of the world, unforgiven depravity, and a denial of “self” by Jesus Christ the Son of God!

But Jesus turns and looks directly at Peter and says,


“Get behind Me, Satan.  You are My trap!  Because you do not mind the things of God but those of men.” (verse twenty-three) 


You are a trap and an enticement in My way to pleasing the Father, so go!  Get behind Me.  Get out of My way!  And, as before in the desert, His command to Satan was obeyed.

But what does He mean when He says, “…you are My trap, because you do not mind the things of God but those of men”?  Why does He say that?  Well, minding the things of men is opposite to minding the things of God.  The “Things” of God are the providential, blessed, saving purposes, plans and acts of God!  But men’s minds aren’t on those things!  The minds of men are on themselves – and their purposes, plans and acts!  And Peter’s thinking was set on these!  The suffering, and crucifixion, and descent into Hades, and ascension of the Son of God into the Heavens were not the things that Peter had on his mind!

To the world, the suffering and crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is offensive.  But to Christ, anything opposed to the cross and the resurrection is offensive!

To the world the lowly position of Christ and His followers is offensive (Matthew thirteen); to the world the teaching of Christ is offensive (Matthew eighteen); to the world the Stone upon which the nation of Israel was crushed is offensive (Romans nine); Christ’s teaching that His body is the Bread of Life is offensive (John six); His being crucified is offensive to Jews (and Gentile alike) (First Corinthians one); to the world, righteousness through faith in Christ is offensive (Romans nine)!  It is a snare – and a Stone upon which men are crushed.  Their minds are on other things – “… you do not mind the things of God, but those of men.”

With Christ it was His closest associate who tried to trap Him into minding the things of men; and Jesus turned on him sharply and rebuked the Satanic enticement.  And just as Eve enticed Adam; and Job’s wife enticed him; and Peter enticed Jesus – so often are we presented with a snare – an enticement to compromise the faith.  Sometimes it’s by our closest family members or friends who wish to give us advice, counsel or rebuke.  And if they’re minding the things of men rather than the things of God, then there must be a rejection of, and an uncovering of that!  Even the words of our closest associates must be rejected as injurious to our edification and progress in the faith, if they are minding the things of men!

Because a counselor who minds the things of men rather than those of God is a cause of ruin.  The pleading prayer of the Psalmist in Psalms one hundred forty and one hundred forty-one is that he might be kept from the snares and traps of the wicked.  The Scriptural Command is that every thought must be captive to Christ.  No ally, no son, no daughter, no husband, no wife, no pastor can be allowed to bend us off course.  It is “skandalon” – a snare – to be swayed from bearing the cross.  It is “skandalon” to be diverted from self-denial!  It is “skandalon” – a stone of crushing and destruction – for our minds to be deviated from the things of God.

This in not an impediment – or a stumbling stone, or an offense – but a trap which, when approached with an open mind, springs shut with Satanic conspiracy and deception!  Peter’s impassioned command to Jesus had concern and zeal and force – and error!  And Jesus opposed him, saying that he “minded the things of men rather than those of God.”  He was a trap in the way of Jesus completing the purpose of God for the salvation of the world.

Verse twenty-four:


“Then”, indicating immediately afterward, “then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes (wills) to come after Me let him deny himself and take up his cross and be following Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life shall ruin it.  But whoever shall ruin his life for My sake shall find it.’” 


When Jesus began to show His disciples and said, “It is necessary,” it was enough said about His Own course.  It was fixed.  Now He begins to speak to all the disciples about the course of men.  Whoever would follow Him – whoever wills to follow Him – whoever would come after Him – into Jerusalem to suffer and be killed and be raised, let him disown himself; let him turn himself off and refuse association with himself.  “Let him deny himself, and let him take up his cross and be following Me.”

Now, the “self-denial” that Jesus introduces into this conversation isn’t the petty word that we’ve all heard so much.  This isn’t the denial of some object of affection, or denial of material goods (like an oath of poverty), or putting away some special sin or habit or practice (as in the practice of lent).  It is not the rejection of the usage of something or the other.

The word “deny” means – no.  It is a negative attitude of the whole person.  It is to refuse, to resist, to reject.  It is to “negate”.  First John one, twenty-two says, “Who is a liar but he that denies (reject, negates) that Jesus is the Christ?  He is antichrist that denies the Father and the Son.”  In Acts chapter three, the sermon of this apostle Peter says that the Jews delivered Him up and denied (rejected, negated) Him.  On the other hand, where there has been acknowledgment and commitment, self-denial implies a relationship of obedience and fidelity – exclusivity!

In our text, it is affirmation or negation!  With regard to oneself it is to negate or to affirm.  I must not affirm myself and my own being, nor cling to myself, but abandon (negate) myself in a radical renunciation of myself (and not merely of my overt sins).  I must no longer seek to establish my life in or of myself, but resolutely seek to establish the life of Christ!  Is there an open mind issue?  Is there an affirmation of self?

Peter later denies Jesus – “I know not the man,” he said.  This is what we must say regarding the self.  “I know not the man.”  Men must see the sin and damnation and death bound up in the self and turn from that self in utter dismay – seeking to follow Christ before the world court and suffer at the hands of the world’s greatest – to be put to death in Him and to be raised!

Now, as we all know, today’s psychology is just the opposite of this, isn’t it?  From “Christian” counseling and psychology and psychiatry we hear that we must get in touch with ourselves – to know ourselves and to love ourselves the way we are!  And that self-esteem grows when we see (or get in touch with) ourselves and accept ourselves.  But everything about these methods of counseling seem to be completely backwards to what Jesus is saying!

He says to know oneself is, then, to deny that self!  To reject it.  To negate the person who’s there!  There must be an abandonment of that self and a “following” of Christ.  And that’s what “following” means in the Greek text.  “To belong to – exclusively – abandoning the attachments of before!”  And the attachments of before have to do with “minding the things of men instead of those of God.”

But self-denial doesn’t mean that today!  Self-denial today means getting rid of those people and situations which negatively impact one’s positive (self-esteem) out-look and assertiveness!  Why?  The preaching is gone – the counseling is gone – submission to authority is gone.  Rejecting self to suffer with Christ is gone.  It’s out of “vogue”, it’s anachronistic, it’s not politically correct, it’s dysfunctional, it’s “dependency”.

Next Lord’s Day we’ll pick up right here with some more about taking up our cross and following Jesus – exclusively.  “For whoever shall save his life shall ruin it; and whoever shall ruin his life for My sake shall find it.”